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Toxemia of pregnancy in sheep: a clinical, physiological, and pathological study

Thomas F. Ferris, Peter B. Herdson, Michael S. Dunnill and M. Radcliffe Lee

Department of Pathology, Oxford University, Oxford, England

Department of Medicine of the Regius Professor, Oxford University, Oxford, England

Department of Medicine, Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio 43210

Department of Pathology, Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois 60201

Published September 1969

Toxemia was induced in 13 of 20 pregnant ewes by the stress of a change in environment and food deprivation late in pregnancy. Of the toxemic ewes, eight developed prominent neurological findings with convulsions, motor weakness, and blindness, whereas five ewes developed azotemia without neurological signs. Proteinuria and azotemia occurred in all but one of the toxemic animals. Seven animals did not develop clinical or laboratory evidence of toxemia. Hypertension did not occur with the onset of toxemia but all toxemic animals showed glomerular changes by light and electron microscopy. These abnormalities, which were similar to those seen in human preeclampsia, included endothelial cell swelling, focal reduplication of the basement membrane, and fusion of the epithelial cell foot processes. The toxemia could not be attributed to changes in hematocrit, plasma glucose, Na, Cl, CO2, K, Ca, fibrinogen, arterial pH, lactate, or pyruvate concentrations. Cardiac output fell only in ewes with prominent neurological signs. Plasma renin rose strikingly in animals developing toxemia, without change in substrate concentration. In contrast to human and other species, sheep uterus and amniotic fluid contained no detectable quantities of renin.

Thus in response to stress the pregnant ewe develops a toxemia which in the absence of hypertension has clinical and pathological similarities to human preeclampsia.

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